Are you bracing for Thanksgiving dinner, wondering how you are going to explain the changes in your life to relatives or friends who you haven’t seen since last year? Whether you are newly divorced, widowed or unemployed, facing a group of people who tacitly wonder what the real story is can feel daunting. The temptation is to come fully armed in a suit of dispassionate coolness and declare, “I’m doing fine! (Subtext: “Stay back!”)
Writer and researcher, Dr. Brene Brown said in an interview with Oprah: “It’s almost like disengagement is cool now. You’re not supposed to care.” She added that disengagement is the biggest armor we don to protect ourselves.
It is true our society values self-reliance, independence and strength. It is equally true that being strong and being vulnerable are not mutually exclusive. In fact it takes a lot of courage to reveal our feelings, to admit we have needs, and to own that we care.
The Cost of Acting Cool
What is at stake when we act cool? Disconnection – the inability to create meaningful relationships. My former husband would frequently declare that he didn’t need anyone, that he was totally self-reliant and independent. And that is a big reason we are divorced. You can’t form a meaningful connection with someone who denies the importance of connection.
The truth is human beings need to be part of a tribe. We are relational beings, and to be at peak emotional fitness, we need connection with others. This is never more obvious than when you are divorced, widowed, ill or unemployed. The support that comes from a community is critical to healing.
When people are vulnerable and admit they need help we are drawn to them, because we see ourselves reflected in that person. We feel connected through our shared angst that is part of the human experience. Consider this quote from Brene Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection:
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are really never giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”
So tomorrow, instead of brushing off someone’s well-meaning question, “how are you doing?” put down the turkey drumstick and open your heart. Look them in the eyes and admit, “It’s been tough, thanks for asking.”
Photo by Christian Bernal